- Day One: My F-i-L wanted to travel there and back via the Tyne Tunnel. As a semi-retired mining engineer he's obsessed with large underground holes - filled or otherwise - so this came as no surprise. I prefer to salute the Angel at Gateshead whenever we head North, but compromise is everything in this game, so we dipped under the river, came up the other side and then, at his request, drove a little further past the city to visit Northumberlandia, the Lady of the North. Turns out this 'land sculpture' was created using earth from a neighbouring surface mine...well fancy that! We had a wander around the Lady's curvaceous contours, with a running commentary from our own on-site expert, and a cake-and-coffee break at the on-site cafe...
- Day Two: We took the Metro to Tynemouth Station Market, which advertises itself as not just a market, but a good day out! I can certainly vouch for this - it was big, bustling and busy - with loads of different stalls, selling something for everyone, all under cover of the glazed Victorian station roof. We browsed up and down the platforms for ages, and I had a long felting/knitting/crochet-related chat with a lovely lady called Mairi, a.k.a. Raggy Badger, before purchasing a card and a little felt fox with a woolly scarf from her colourful stall. I so admire anyone who has the courage and commitment to "put themselves out there" and sell their work in this way - I always try to support with a purchase if/when I can. I also rescued a "pre-loved" doll (nice face, but in need of some TLC), from a mountain of dishevelled Barbies on a second hand toy stall, and bought two jars of homemade jam - strawberry and rhubarb, and raspberry curd. Both absolutely delicious on toast!
In the evening we went along to the Alphabetti theatre for a 'pay-what-you-feel' performance of Sugar Baby, a darkly funny and somewhat surreal one-man play about an extraordinary day in the life of Marc, a small-time Cardiff drug dealer (played by Ben Gettins). We all enjoyed Ben's energetic performance, which really brought the story to life...but the narrow bench seating was excruciatingly uncomfortable, so we were quite relieved that it only lasted an hour!
- Day Three: After a leisurely breakfast we headed down the hill to the Quayside Market. Having picked up all those bits and pieces the day before I was trying to "look, not buy", and was doing quite well until we came to the Cotfield Mirrors stall. This is run by a husband and wife team (Alan and Carol), who specialise in mosaic/stained glass adornment of mirrors, furniture and more. Alan's style is quite precise, utilising intricate geometrical patterns, whereas Carol's work is more eclectic and unconventional. She incorporates pottery fragments, ornaments, shells, and other decorative found objects into her designs, and the longer you look the more you discover. I especially loved her tiny tableaux made from miniature model railway figures - flying kites, rock-climbing and sunbathing - inside little tins and broken tea cups that were grouted into the frames.
Next stop was The Biscuit Factory, an independent art, craft and design gallery, with a lovely roof-top cafe, which we always try to visit whenever we're in Newcastle. I was happy to find that it had survived Covid and was still in business, showcasing and selling a wide range of work by all sorts of different artists. After the obligatory cake-and-coffee break we had a leisurely wander round the gallery. Having already blown my budget on Carol's mirror I came away empty-handed this time, but with a head full of inspiration and ideas.
The walk back to the city centre from The Biscuit Factory takes you through a rather run-down "no-man's-land" kind of area, alongside a busy 4-lane highway and over a series of pedestrian bridges across the A167 motorway, which intersects the city. I stopped to take a photo of this abandoned, semi-derelict building as we passed, and thought to myself, "Even the 'bad' bits of this city are beautiful!"
- Day Four: We packed our suitcases and headed for the coast on the final day of the holiday. My M-i-L wanted to visit Spanish City at Whitley Bay, as she had heard about it but never seen it. We had one last cake-and-coffee break at Valerie's Tearoom and then walked along the beach for a while, in a vain attempt to burn off a fraction of our four-day accumulation of cake-and-coffee calories. I may never be able to look at a fruit scone again, but as holidays go, this long weekend in lovely Newcastle was a great success!